It’s been a bit refreshing this season that we’ve been able to talk more about some excellent ski conditions, and a little bit less about the proposed Village At Squaw Valley Project. We had figured that February might be a busy month for news on the project, with the release of the project’s final Environmental Impact Report. That report, and all of the drama that is expected to follow, has now been delayed until late spring of 2016.
It was an editorial that appeared in last week’s Sierra Sun that brought the Village project back to our attention. In his editorial, Sierra Watch Executive Director Tom Mooers notes a Tahoe Regional Planning Agency letter itemizing their concerns to the Placer County Planning Department. He notes that TRPA has now joined nearly 350 other agencies and individuals that provided comments on the draft EIR last year.
Technically, the entire Village project, as well as all of Squaw Valley and most of Alpine Meadows, does not even fall under TRPA jurisdiction, which covers the “Tahoe Basin”. The basin is loosely defined as all watersheds that drain into Lake Tahoe, thereby affecting its clarity. The agency, created in 1969, has drawn its share of criticism for being both too restrictive and too lenient. One can only imagine the fate of the lake had TRPA not given guidance at all over the last 45 years.
In their letter to Placer County, TRPA focused their concerns only on Chapter 9 of the dEIR, which deals specifically with transportation and circulation. They note that the additional development will result in more vehicle trips and therefore more vehicle miles in the basin. Here’s a summary:
• From the data in the dEIR, TRPA calculated that there would be roughly 2700 daily vehicle trips into the basin, resulting in somewhere between 28,000 and 48,000 vehicle miles travelled in the basin daily.
• These trips would be in addition to other projects already approved or in line for approval in the basin such as the Homewood project and the Brockway Campground.
• Projects within the basin are required to mitigate the vehicle traffic and to pay an air quality mitigation fee. Since the Village project is not within the basin, but some of the traffic it will create will be in the basin, it’s unclear how the TRPA may proceed.
• TRPA suggests that significant reductions in vehicular traffic could be gained by adding additional bus runs into Squaw Valley from the basin. They also suggest the need to add incentives for people to use the alternative transportation.
While it’s great to see the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency getting involved in the Village At Squaw Valley project. We think they’re underestimating the amount of vehicular traffic the project will generate. A footnote on their letter says it all. They used the estimated traffic numbers directly from the draft Environmental Impact Report to make their calculations.
You may remember that several agencies and many individuals took issue with the traffic calculations presented in the document as being unrealistic. The traffic surveys were conducted during a dry spell during one of the driest seasons on record in Tahoe, resulting in a very significant reduction in skier visits that season. Can you imagine if they had conducted that traffic survey during this season?
Kudos to Tom Mooers and Sierra Watch for reminding us that we have to stay vigilant in protecting the future of the Lake Tahoe region for everyone. The Village At Squaw Valley project and proposed Base to Base project will have far reaching impacts that we cannot afford to let happen. Here’s a link to the TRPA letter.